When you describe the personality of a city, I don't think you are talking about its inhabitants. There's something about the conglomeration of buildings, the interaction between concrete and green space, the angles at which the sun casts shadows down long main drags, the smell that pervades right before a rain storm. Each city is an individual, and each city has a history. In the new graphic novella A City of Whiskey and Fire by Daniel Landes and Noah Van Sciver, Denver is a city that was born and burned on the same day.
What starts off as a recitation of some seemingly fictionalized account of the burning of Denver, Colorado on April 19, 1863 becomes, by the end of the book, a rumination on the nature of place, on the sense of home.
As a storyteller, Landes knows what he is doing. He brings us in by building tension and speaking in images. Once he has us in what should be the denouement, he addresses us directly, puts his arm around us, makes us feel comfortable. We have a bond. It is safe. It is then he talks about himself and his relationship with the place he calls home. Because we are together, we know that as he talks of himself, he's talking about us too.
Then there's the art here. Noah Van Sciver continues to use all the ink too make his point. He's a man obsessed not only with the interaction between vertical and horizontal lines, but also how negative space can be just as communicative as thick black washes. Van Sciver fills his panels to the point where you can get lost imagining him hunched over for hours at a time, ignoring all the necessities of the world in order to get each line right.
They are, in a way, the perfect complement for each other, the wordsmith and the artist, as each play to the strengths of the other. In twenty-two pages they capture the claustrophobic and violent birth of a city born of Whiskey and Fire and how, as it has become their home, they still feel comfortable with the instinct to leave it engenders. They are comfortable that Whiskey and Fire and Leaving are all a part of what we call home.